Iowa governor dismisses masks as physicians plan to gather at Capitol to ask for mandate

Local News

Iowa is now one of two states without a statewide mask mandate and Governor Kim Reynolds said Thursday she does not plan on issuing one anytime soon, because some “people” don’t think they work.

When a reporter at Reynolds’ news conference mentioned that scientists say masks work to slow the spread of the virus, Reynolds responded, “But there’s people that would tell you just the opposite.”

However, this weekend a group of people from across the state are gathering at the Capitol to give reasons on why she should reconsider: Iowa physicians.

This group of physicians is holding a conference at the State Capitol this Saturday where they will present an open letter to the governor signed by nearly 300 physicians, urging her to issue a statewide face-covering order.

Despite the rise in COVID-19 cases in the state, the governor has continuously said she’s putting the responsibility to wear masks in the hands of Iowans.

“We’re being personally responsible, I think Iowans are,” Governor Reynolds said.

However, some say personal responsibility only goes so far.

In the letter, the physicians cited an Iowa poll published in June that found just a little over 50% of respondents reported wearing masks “most of the time” when in public.

The letter states, “Government recommendations on the use of facial coverings appear to be insufficient.”

On Saturday, this group will discuss the latest scientific evidence surrounding masks use, such as a new study conducted at the University of Iowa that demonstrates that state government mask mandates have been effective in reducing the daily growth rate of COVID-19. Physicians will also provide evidence-based public health policies.

This document joins another letter made out to Gov. Reynolds from the Iowa Medical Society and 14 other health organizations representing more than 12,000 physicians and health officials in the state.

The president of the Iowa Medical Society, Dr. Brian Privett, said as frontline workers that see severe cases of COVID-19 every day, it’s their duty to speak up on this topic.

“We are problem solvers. We’re trained to go out and solve problems and we see wearing a mask and mandating masks as a very simple solution to a problem. It won’t fix everything but it’ll certainly help decrease the transmission,” Dr. Privett said.

Polk County Board of Supervisors sent a letter to the governor asking her to allow a county-wide mask mandate, as Polk County has the largest amount of coronavirus cases in the state.

“It is somewhat frustrating particularly now that we see a surge in Polk County. I would love to be able to mandate it but we really can’t,” Polk County Supervisor, Angela Connolly said.

Officials in Johnson County and Iowa City have issued their own masks mandates.

However, Governor Reynolds and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office have said that local officials do not have the authority to mandate masks, therefore it can’t be enforced.

Retailers are having the same problem. For instance, this week Hy-Vee began handing out masks to customers to encourage use in stores but said requiring it would be difficult without the governor’s orders.

Dr. Privett said not only would mandating masks slow down the spread of the coronavirus, but it could allow counties and businesses to enforce this mandate without friction with the public.

“It would simplify things a lot in a large amount if that person could just simply say, ‘it’s the state law, you have to do this.’ That would definitely cut down on a lot of conflict, not only in retail businesses but also in our own healthcare clinics as well,” Dr. Privett said.

This event will be held Saturday, at 9:45 a.m. at the State Capitol on the west steps.

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